Violence, Power, and Creation Care

Ask an American to tell the story of America and they will begin, perhaps, with the story of the American Revolution where freedom from tyranny was secured. It will progress to the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. Naturally, the story will weave its way through World War I and II, where the tyrannical powers of the world were halted by our military might. Vietnam and Korea. The Cold War, Desert Storm and the Iraqi War will all make their appearance. Our imagination, our identity as a country has been shaped by the marking of our history – a history littered with violence. Some have gone so far as to say that the ethos of our dominant narrative is war.
Our violence has not been limited to national warfare. We endured a dark history of slavery, sexism, and colonialism. We continue to be affronted by unethical financial practices that oppress the poor. Manifest Destiny was thinly veiled genocide hailed as progress. This fails to mention human trafficking, poor waste management, child and spousal abuse, and school violence. If we have only mentioned our human relationships as part of Creation care, what list might we build if we considered violence done to the environment and to the rest of Creation?
The prevailing praxis flowing out of our ethos of violence is necessary to understand. Our conceptions of power are built on the notion that “might makes right,” no less if by majority vote. Power is used to attain what one desires and to maintain what one has acquired. And, if something should be desired or something of mine threatened, then force, violence – even war – are deemed acceptable options to our desired end, no matter who or what might be destroyed. This “will to power” objectifies the Creation, which includes other humans, for manipulation and exploitation for personal gain, pleasure or benefit. Thus, we practice violence.
Micah, a prophet during the height of Israel’s power, lived in a world filled with violence. He imagines an alternative script for the ways in which we might faithfully employ power. Hear what Micah says, “[God] will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths… They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation nor will they train for war anymore. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.”
Weapons of violence are re-shaped as instruments of cultivation. Power is re-oriented to the sustaining of life and the protection of the weak, not for the exploitation of the poor and the elimination of our competition. Power is re-directed from “might makes right” to purposefully seeking the “good of all.” Micah invites a new world into our midst, not as a pipe dream… as an invitation to live into God’s future now. It is a future where power will no longer resemble the warrior garbed in battle attire. Rather, it is a future where we will live in right relationship with one another, enjoying the fruits of Creation which we have helped cultivate together, and where fear is but a memory. No longer will our identity be found in being a warrior, using power for our own security. We will be those that till the soil, utilizing our power to add value back into the Creation and into the lives of others. May it be so!